Friday, May 14, 2010

We all scream for....frozen yogurt

Check out my latest article for the Dallas Morning News, published two weeks ago:

Anybody remember the frozen yogurt craze of the ‘90’s, when a TCBY or I Can't Believe It's Yogurt could be found on every corner? I certainly do. I loved frozen yogurt back then and still do. But alas, the craze all but faded away when the low-carb trend took over.

Well, lucky for me it’s back - and there are two new yogurt stores right here in my town (Cherry on Top and Tappy’s Yogurt). With a new “serve yourself and pay by the ounce” concept, and tantalizing names like Cake Batter, Caramel Cream and Orange Dream, they’re a different breed than the TCBY’s of days past.

But the newest twist? Today’s frozen yogurt is touted as a health food – marketed as “fresh and natural”, full of “live and active cultures”, with vitamins and minerals.

Hmmm, a sweet treat with possible health benefits? This I had to check out.

Read on to find out the nutritional story behind this new fad.

What’s really in it?

I took a peek at the ingredients and nutritional data for both stores – and not surprisingly, discovered there’s a bit more involved than just milk, fruit and "natural" flavorings:

Sugar: Yes, good old white sugar (it’s frozen yogurt, what do you expect?). In almost all flavors, sugar is the second most prevalent ingredient (skim milk being the first). Some contain additional sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup solids.

How much sugar can you expect? In about an ounce of yogurt, 20% of the content is sugar. I served myself around 10 ounces (filling half my container), which contained about 17 teaspoons of sugar – the same as what’s in a 20-ounce Coke. That’s a lot of sugar (not to mention about 500 calories). Serving yourself is convenient, but pay attention to your amount and toppings.

Low-sugar options: There are a few low-sugar flavors; these contain some white sugar plus other sweeteners like juice concentrates, sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners (aspartame or acesulfame K).

These varieties contain about 7% sugar per ounce – or 6 teaspoons in a typical 10-ounce serving (about the same amount in six Oreo cookies).

Probiotics: Live and active cultures (better known as probiotics) are “helpful” bacteria found in cultured foods like yogurt, acidophilus milk and kefir. Studies suggest they can improve your immune system by maintaining a good/bad bacteria balance. Additionally, they may help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and lactose intolerance.

Today's frozen yogurt heavily markets probiotics. And it does contain some - but really, how much? Compared to regular, dairy yogurt found at the grocery store (which is chock-full of probiotics), frozen yogurt’s content is minimal.

It certainly doesn't hurt that probiotics are in there, but don't expect the marketed benefits of "healing infections", "boosting immunity" and "stimulating memory" to be of any significance (proposed benefits taken directly from the Cherry on Top website).

Other ingredients:

  • artificial food colors: a surprisingly large number of flavors contain artificial colors like red #40, red #3, blue #1, yellow #5, yellow #6 and Brilliant Blue FCF;
  • vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils: both of which contain artery-clogging trans fats;
  • cholesterol:anywhere between 10mg to 90mg per 10 ounces (your daily recommended consumption should be under 200mg);
  • sodium: a 10-ounce serving contains an average of 200mg of sodium – which is about 10% of your daily recommended amount.Some low-fat varieties had twice as much as regular flavors, while sorbets had the lowest amounts.

The bottomline…..

My verdict? The new flavors are tasty and rich - a far cry from the chocolate/vanilla swirl of yesteryear - and the variety of toppings is fun (including fresh fruit). This frozen yogurt is a great treat and a pretty good substitute for regular ice cream. My kids loved it, too.

However, no matter how dressed up it is or what the advertisements say, it’s a dessert, plain and simple. Not a health food. On the spectrum of dairy products, consider frozen yogurt nutritionally closer to low-fat ice cream than to dairy yogurt. It may contain some probiotics, calcium, protein and B-vitamins - but the amount of sugar, calories and undesirable extra ingredients outweighs any nutritional value it might have.

Try it out for yourself and just remember to treat it as a treat - then enjoy.


  1. Thanks for giving us the "scoop" on frozen yogurt. That variety sure doesn't sound very healthful.

    However, I do consume a lot of yogurt. I start with plain yogurt containing live cultures, and then I mix in ground flaxseed, some Fiber One cereal, a few berries, and some stevia or Splenda. The result is a tasty high-fiber treat

  2. Jim,
    Yum, that sounds great; I like the idea of Fiber One cereal. Much better than granola. I will give that a try.

    We love yogurt at our house, too. I like taking greek-style plain yogurt (it's a bit thicker than standard styles, which my kids really enjoy) and mixing in fresh fruit with the barest touch of honey. They love it, I love it, and we all win with a healthy snack. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I'm just catching up on your blog! Eddie and I have taken Vance to Yogurtville a couple of times - there's one really close to our house. We've been talking about their "bold" nutritional claims posted on the wall - I'm betting most people really want to believe every word!

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